News of research in diabetes today suggests that stem cells derived from sperm can be transformed into insulin-secreting cells, similar to the beta-islet cells of the pancreas, therefore reducing blood glucose in diabetic mice. This may lead to treatment of Type I diabetes in the future.

There are many herbs which have an effect on blood glucose via a variety of apparent mechanisms of action. Gymnema sylvestre is commonly used by herbalists for regulating blood glucose and there have been several studies supporting this, including a recent human trial showing a stimulating effect on insulin secretion and consequent reduction in blood glucose (Al-Romaiyan et al., 2010). However, apart from stimulating insulin secretion from pancreatic β-cells, Gymnema has also been shown (in a diabetic rat model) to have a regenerative effect on those cells (Ahmed et al., 2010) although more meaningful human studies on regeneration of pancreatic β-cells are warranted. Other mechanisms by which it may act include blocking glucose receptors in the gut therefore reducing absorption (a constituent, gymnemic acid has a similar structure to glucose), enhancing utilization of glucose for fuel, reducing synthesis of glucose in the body and enhancing responses to insulin.


Ahmed AB, Rao AS, Rao MV (2010) ‘In vitro callus and in vivo leaf extract of Gymnema sylvestre stimulate beta-cells regeneration and anti-diabetic activity in Wistar rats’, Phytomedicine, 17(13): 1033-9

Al-Romaiyan A, Liu B, Asare-Anane H, Maity CR, Chatterjee SK, Koley N, Biswas T, Chatterji AK, Huang GC, Amiel SA, Persaud SJ, Jones PM. (2010) ‘A novel Gymnema sylvestre extract stimulates insulin secretion from human islets in vivo and in vitro’, Phytother Res. Sep;24(9):1370-6.